24 Hour Fitness, 12/29/2009

Come on, fatty. Hit the deck. Move those saddlebags. One more pull-up.

It’s the litany of the personal trainer—the mean one, the ex-military drill sergeant who bullies clients through the exercises. It’s the kind of training popularized on The Biggest Loser, or in Jillian Michaels’ workout DVDs. It seems like Americans want to believe that exercise is transformative, and not just in the physical sense. Do enough crunches, and your heartache will melt away with the pounds. A good trainer will beat you down, build you up into something better. Stronger. A person who can cope with their problems without a donut in each hand.

January is the month of self-loathing, following the holiday season of familial self-indulgence. I sweated through a high-intensity aerobics class on Saturday. It was packed—twenty women, three or four men, doing their best not to kick each other during the leg lift segments. The instructor, a very fit blond, panted between jump-kicks: I know you don’t want to be here. But it’s the only way to get the calories off. And the students moaned in unison, as though universally regretting that last piece of fudge, the extra nibble of pecan pie.

It’s the season of resolutions, too. The most popular New Year’s resolution, across the board is weight loss. Weight loss beats out debt management, getting married, and quitting smoking. So it’s no surprise that 24 Hour Fitness is hiring personal trainers. Undoubtedly they’re anticipating the influx of slightly guilty new members, eager to drop pounds. The premise of 24 Hour Fitness is simple: the gym never closes. Members can go to an aerobic dance class one day, tone up for bikini season the next. They can lift weights at 3AM, if they wish, or sit in the sauna in the late afternoon. The 24-hour format is perfect for exercise bulimics, or people who like to get stoned and pump iron. And, of course, there are personal trainers available to make everyone’s fitness dreams come true.

However, it takes more than a military demeanor to become a personal trainer. (Actually, I don’t know if motivating clients through fear is a 24 Hour Fitness policy; I’m willing to bet it’s not.) Potential hires have either a Personal Trainer certificate, a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree in fitness. Also, they should be able to lift 50 pounds. Compare that to the Membership/Sales Counselor, who only needs a high school diploma or GED, and should be able to lift 45 pounds. Hmm. (CRF)

Posted in

Michael Constantine McConnell, 12/28/2009

Current Occupation: writer/editor
Former Occupation: college composition teacher
Contact information: Michael Constantine McConnell writes poems, prose, and palindromes and is a devout student of the 20-button Anglo concertina, upright bass, piano, and autoharp. Experimental Word Forms Editor for Farrago’s Wainscot, his work has appeared in such places as Diet Soap, 32 Poems, Ars Medica, The Bitter Oleander, Freshwater, Buffalo Carp, and Reading Lips, an anthology sponsored by the Helen Keller Foundation. His musical projects can be found at the following sites: www.myspace.com/thejakeys (The Jakeys), www.myspace.com/gloomadeer (Warren Jackson Hearne and the Merrie Murdre of Gloomadeers), and www.myspace.com/circusdellamorte (Circus della Morte). Michael is a proud resident of Denton, Texas.

###

Reply to Employment Rejection

A response to my severalth staff employment rejection from a university where I purchased two expensive degrees:

Dr. Calloway,

I thank you for the cordial letter that I received on October 16, 2006, informing me that the Academic Advisor position has been filled. Despite my undergraduate and graduate degrees and my experience working with college students, I can’t seem to find a job. At this university, I’ve been turned down for every job I’ve applied, from an entry level proofreader (a position in my primary field) to a mover (a position in which I have eight years of experience.)

Regardless, being jobless, I have too much time on my hands, so I have provided you with the free service of editing the form rejection letter that bears your name. Please consider the following points:

1. The second sentence of paragraph one contains a misplaced modifier: “After having given careful consideration to all applicants, the position … .” The position is incapable of giving careful consideration. You should use active voice and write, ” … consideration to all applicants, I (or we or some type of relevant agent) have offered the position … .” That way the modifier will attach to the proper noun (pronoun in this case.)

2. The same sentence contains an improperly used semicolon: ” … the position has been offered to the person I felt had the best combination of work experience and skills pertinent to the office operation; and that individual has accepted.” You should never follow a semicolon with a coordinating conjunction; that is what a comma is for. A semicolon combines two independent clauses into the same sentence as does the comma/”and” combination: “, and …”. The semicolon is redundant in this case and should be replaced with a comma.

3. There is confusing preposition usage in the second paragraph: “I encourage you to keep your application on file with our Human Resources Office in the event that the other positions of which you qualify become available.” A person qualifies for a job. A person does not qualify of a job.

4. Finally, since this form rejection letter is business correspondence, you might want to consider using a professional font, such as Times New Roman or Garamond or Arial instead of Comic Sans Serif. Recipients of an employment rejection letter should not feel like they are reading about their lack of qualifications from a comic book.

Again, please consider my suggestions, which exemplify the type of good, concise writing I expect from my ENGL 1310 freshman composition students. Thank you for your time.

Have a great day, week, semester, and holiday season.

Sincerely,

Michael Constantine McConnell

Posted in

Ric Vrana, 12/21/2009

Current Occupation: Planner for a metropolitan transit agency and part time adjunct in the school of urban planning in the same city.
Former Occupation: Various full and part time faculty positions and before grad school I was an electrician because every guy should have a trade.
Contact Information: Ric Vrana has been a mechanic, a water treatment operator, a warehouseman, an electrician, a professor and a planner. Now he works making maps for the bus company. The best decision he ever made was to jump bail.

###

Annual Performance Review

First let me express my pleasure

once again for the opportunity

to write up my Self Evaluation

portion of our company’s

annual performance review.

As you know, this has been a year

where I have been singularly brilliant

in rising to every challenge and

enjoying each new twist and tangle

of this joyous effort we call “work”.

Although I cannot tell for sure if

I met or exceeded the as yet unpublished

expected outcomes benchmarks,

I feel confident I can report

sustained achievement in several critical areas.

My production of interoffice memos has risen

to the point where every employee in the unit

receives several from me each week.

Also, as my appointments log will show,

I have frequently been attending two meetings at once.

I take credit for having successfully trained

the four young college graduates hired

to directly supervise me and

I finish this year with eight of my ten

vacation days unused, and unmissed I say.

I feel confident I have made improvement

over last year’s catastrophic performance,

that ended in that unfortunate fire,

the law suit from which incident so slowly

makes its way through the civil courts.

As detailed in my Work Plan

you so generously agreed to provide,

I no longer fall sleep in front of my computer,

I’ve reduced my bathroom breaks, and now recycle

all food wrappers from my two meals a day at the desk.

Beginning this year with my kids in high school

I should be able to bring my weekly hours

up to the average of 50, enjoyed by our co-workers

and evening meetings in public venues will no longer

find me arriving in a state of inebriation.

As for the rogue email that “got away”

I think we can all recall unfortunate utterances

made in haste and ignorance about upper management

and all that flirting with the admin assistants,

that’s a two way street, honestly.

Posted in

Harry Calhoun, 12/14/2009

Current Occupation: Marketing writer for IBM and widely published but narrowly paid poet
Former Occupation: Same thing, different places for many years, plus an assortment of odd jobs
Contact Information: Harry Calhoun’s articles, literary essays, book reviews and poems have been published in magazines including Writer’s Digest and The National Enquirer. Recently, his online chapbook Dogwalking Poems and his trade paperback, I knew Bukowski like you knew a rare leaf, were published. The latter is now available from Trace Publications and on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers. He has had recent publications in Chiron Review, Still Crazy, SNReview, Orange Room Review, Bird’s Eye reView, Abbey, Monongahela Review and many others. Recently, he was one of 12 poets invited to LiteraryMary’s anthology, Outstanding Men of the Small Press.

###

The World of Sunday Afternoon


in the late afternoon, two-thirds drunk

working a crossword and ready

for a long late-spring’s nap,

the alcohol rolling away the stones

of death and work and weight gain

and approaching the eternal crossroads

the cross we meet and bear and

choose or reject, but today even without

listening to Bukowski’s beloved classical music

that I love too, the world seems

for a time, to be

a reasonable place to live

Posted in

Angel Interpreter/Angelologist, 12/7/2009

Fact: Somebody gets paid to talk to angels. Fact: That somebody need not be a church leader, trained and/or certified in any way. Fact: That same person who talks to angels believes you are guided and watched at all times by these angels. Even when you pick your nose.

Believe what you will. Angels are referenced in The Bible, The Torah and The Koran. And ghosts are featured in spiritual believes all around the world. However, on the one hand we have religion, spirituality and tradition then, on the other hand, there are scams. Angelology may be one of the best scams since the Fox Sisters rhythmically cracked their toes and claimed the snapping sounds were those ephemerals speaking from the afterlife.

Rudolf Steiner, the man who gave Madame Blavatsky a run for her money, invented many new “traditions”. Waldorf schools are based on his teachings. Bio Dynamic farming is entirely his doing. Steiner believed stuffing a cow horn with manure and tinctures that was buried for a year then dug up and the resulting slime sprinkled about a plot of land, the land would produce heartier crops. Some farmers and urban gardeners (pay more attention to your neighbors, people) swear by this arcane, ritualized hybrid fertilizer.

Thanks to Steiner, you too can be an Angelologist. All you have to do is have nerve enough to tell people what they want to hear: your deceased family member loves you and has moved up the spiritual chain of command, chartered with the duty of protecting and guiding you. As an Angelologist you look for signs. Most Angelologists believe angels are invisible, what with their being of the spirit world. But, you’re in luck, as the occasional angel is reported to manifest and when the angel does you’ll know you have a real whopper of a talk.

Now that you’re ready to lift some cash out of misguided wallets, here’s a bit of lingo to get you through rough patches. Steiner said Angels exist. Using crypto-Darwinian notions, there is a triad of hierarchies. We’ve got God (‘Holy Trinity’ if you’re into that) and God’s, of course, above the hierarchy. Then there’s the first order which includes Seraphim and Cherabim and Thrones. Second order has motion, wisdom and form. Third and final order includes zietgeist, archangels and angels. After that you get man, flora, fauna, terra, womyn and grrls. Us apes don’t register in the triad, got it? You might wonder, what’s the difference between archangels and angels? I’ll tell you. I don’t know. Angels are guides, archangels are “spirits of races” but most people consider them guides as well. Archangels seem more in charge of passing messages to God. But apparently regular angels do too.

Okay, so we have the triad. When a human dies, Steiner said, the human becomes an angel. Unless the person was involved in self-reflection and lived an “in-dependent inner life”, in which case the spirit may climb the hierarchical triad.

All well and good, but how do we SEE the angels? How do we SPEAK with them? In exactly the way Harry Houdini tried to speak to his mother.

The most popular suggestion is to sit quietly and allow the angel’s presence to be felt.

The second most popular suggestion is to use Angel Cards – which are something you can make yourself or you can buy from your fellow hack snake-oil salesmen. Angel Cards are similar to Tarot. Images on cards represent words, feelings, ideas. The cards are shuffled or drawn from a deck based on the “vibe”. It’s all very scientific. I once saw an interview in which someone claimed the “vibe” has something to do with quantum physics.

Workshops to be “certified” as an Angelologist range anywhere from free (you may consider this article your first lesson, subsequent lessons are gonna cost ya. Email workzine@gmail.com for more info.) to four hundred dollars. Or you can pick up Steiner’s classic text: The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature from the library (published 1912, back when they knew a LOT about science).

For those of you looking to strengthen your human-to-angel bond, this link has prayers and requests so you can learn your angel’s name, cleanse your angel, and heal your angel.

Some great living angels are:

And the dodahs of all angelologists:

Good luck channeling the dead-un-dead! (JMM)

Posted in

M.F. McAuliffe, 12/7/2009

Current Occupation: cofounder, contributor, Gobshite Quarterly

Former Occupations: linguistics, classrooms, boiler-rooms, libraries

Contact Information: M.F. McAuliffe is writing about art, M.F. McAuliffe had forgotten that camembert was so different from brie, M.F. McAuliffe has had 4 cats, M.F. McAuliffe has been earning her living since she was 12 years old, M.F. McAuliffe spends an unconscionable amount of time on bank statements, M.F. McAuliffe writes about work, M.F. McAuliffe is listening for the sacred silence, M.F. McAuliffe sees the wind.

###

Miss Miller Stays Home

(April 1974)

She stayed home sleeping Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday night she dragged herself around to the local deli; on Sunday night she ate at the Greek petrol station and pizzeria.

At eight o’ clock on Monday morning she went to the nearest public phone, rang the school secretary and said she’d be away sick all the week.

She bought some bread and milk and food and sat on a kitchen chair. She stared at the pile of unmarked essays, exercises and worksheets that lived on the far edge of the table. She watched the light walk through the house, gold turning to blue in the hallway, rose-petal at sunset.

She stretched out on her bed and dozed, off and on; in the afternoons the splintery hakea outside the back window rustled as though with the sound of rain.

Outside the days were like huge, airy rooms.

#

In the evenings she pulled the blinds down, turned the lights on, and cooked. She did the dishes. She hunted for classical music on the radio. She listened to the ten o’ clock news.

The bandage got dirty. Her hand stopped hurting.

#

On Wednesday she cleaned the cupboards out; she took the junk to the dump. She kept the copy of Australia Felix.

If anyone ever asked her what the country was like, she’d show it to them, wordlessly.

She’d never got past the Proem. After that there were three volumes of Richard Mahoney losing his hair, his youth, his marbles, his wife his family his house his block his testosterone and his life trying to make a fortune in bloody Australia.

She couldn’t, she’d declared once to Geraldine, couldn’t cope with more than one rural failure at once.

She stuffed the book into her suitcase.

If they tried to tell her she was wrong, if they tried to tell her she was exaggerating, that she’d mistaken it all, imagined it all, that her mind needed fixing; if they ever tried to make her go back, she’d hold it up at them and scream.

She turned the radio up until it announced the day’s prices for Brahma bulls.

“Brahmin bullshit,” she muttered, and turned the fruity voice off.

#

On Thursday she had a fire in the incinerator. She burnt all the Essays, Exercises and Worksheets in alphabetical order: E-E-W.

#

On Friday morning moisture seemed to breathe into her skin. She cleaned the fridge out and washed the floors.

She brought the empty rubbish-bin around from the front and clamped the lid on it. She put the last of the kitchen garbage in the bin next door so it could go out next week instead of sitting in her bin and ponging till the next tenant came.

She turned the power off, propped the fridge door open with a chair, and locked the windows and house-doors.

In the car she looked at her mark-book: long and awkward, covered in bright purple paper because she was always losing it, “front” written on the front because she was always opening it upside down and front the back. She tore the purple paper off and scrawled her name across the back or front, shoved it into a brown padded post bag with her resignation and stapled the bag shut.

She posted the mark-book and resignation to school. She posted the house-key to the Regional Office.

She went to the bank and drew out all her money.

She had two thousand dollars. She took a bank cheque for eighteen hundred and put it and the cash into her purse.

She went to the Greek petrol station and got oil, water and petrol. She went to the shopping-centre and bought a box of Kleenex, a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches. She might smoke. She might turn out to be one of those women who sat all night in night-clubs and smoked, and had voices like Marlene Dietrich.

The Gulf was pale and grey as she drove past the headland. The sky ahead of her dimmed and it started to rain.

The windscreen immediately turned to mud. “Shit,” she said. But, she thought, as she took a deep breath and peered through the clearing smears, Henry Handel Richardson hadn’t gone on living there. Henry Handel Richardson had pissed off to bloody Germany, got married and never come back. And she, Marjorie Miller, was bloody going to Melbourne if she had to drive all seven hundred miles at three and a half bloody miles an hour, with a windscreen that looked as though she’d ploughed the whole bloody Nullarbor.

She crashed into water at the first Flash Flood sign. “I love a sunburnt country,” she intoned. Her left hand swept over the ochred plains beyond the empty seat next to her. “Girls, sound your r-r-r’s. Rrr-agged mountain rr-ranges, drrrought and flooding rrrains.

“Jesus,” she snorted. Anthems to bloody soil erosion. Let us now praise the absence of essentials.

She slowed down and snorted again. Not even Dorothea MacKellar and the sacred soil erosion problem were going to stop her now. There were only eighty or ninety more miles of gullies, no grass, no soil and no drainage, hydroplaning and electrical shorts to watch out for, and then she could go like a bat out of hell.

She turned the wipers on to full speed, and turned the headlights on. She fished out a fag and lit it. She might as well get some practice. She wasn’t doing anything with her left hand, and God only knew what she might be doing with her right next week.

She’d be in Melbourne before she even had to have the stitches out.

She grinned and opened the window a crack because the windscreen was fogging up.

Posted in

Mike Berger, 11/30/2009

Current Occupation: PhD in Clinical and Research Psychology, Utah State University.
Former Occupation: Weber County Mental Health, 1961-1991. Senior therapist on the youth team. Specialized in ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in children.
Contact Information: Mike Berger is bright, articulate, handsome and extremely humble. He is the author of two books of short stories, and three of his humor pieces have won awards. He’s been writing poetry for less than a year. His work has or will appear in 35 journals, including AIM, Still Crazy, First Edition, Stray Branch, Midwest Quarterly, Evergreen and Krax.

###

Roughneck

The plane was full.

I stared at the man across the aisle.

He was dressed in blue coveralls.

His hands were massive and

he had dirt under his fingernails.

He wore a shaggy beard.

I struck up a conversation with him.

He was a roughneck from

the oilfields. He operated the huge

drilling machine.

He was leaving the oilfields and

flying home. He had been laid off.

He said that he would have to wait it out

but he thought he’d be to work

in a few months.

He must have seen a frown on my face.

He laughed and went on to explain,

when the price of gasoline dropped below

three dollars a gallon the company cut back

and laid everyone off. There is a glut in

crude oil. When the glut runs out the

company will jack up the prices and he’ll

be back to work.

Posted in

Alex Gagne-Hawes, 11/23/2009

Current Occupation: Whatever they pay me for in the theater, plus some after-school science instruction; they don’t pay me enough.
Former Occupation: Tour guide, bookstore clerk, library shelver, house painter, political canvasser, fine arts camp counselor
Contact Information: Alex was born in Juneau, Alaska. He graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon with a theater degree and went to Los Angeles to point lights at stages. Then he went to Chicago and helped create underground performance spaces. Now back in Portland, he’s trying to create a new revolution of world-around humanist love-thought. He is happy to work for pay.

###

Jingle-Jangle-Clunk

BLACKOUT. Lights up, revealing EMANUEL doing some type of desk work. The stage is arranged linearly, with door frame, then desk, then empty darkness. EBENEEZER bustles in.

EBENEEZER: She’s coming. Get your nametag.

EMANUEL: She’s coming? I hear a man failed last night.

EBENEEZER: He did.
EMANUEL: So soon.
EBENEEZER: Very soon. Get your nametag.

EMANUEL: And a woman failed the night before?

EBENEEZER: People have been failing all over the place. Do you know–

EVANGELINE enters. The effect is similar to Queen Elizabeth I.

EMANUEL (looking past him): She’s here.

EBENEEZER: She is, indeed. We have an evaluation.

EMANUEL: Scheduled?
EBENEEZER: Apparently.
pause
EVANGELINE: Do you remember where the nametags are?

EMANUEL: In the pool of light.
and indeed they are. where before it was dark there are two, one reading “EMANUEL” and one reading “EZEKIEL”

EBENEEZER: Well? Go and get it.

EMANUEL goes to the pool, but stands hesitantly

EBENEEZER (to EVANGELINE): I hadn’t heard we were up for inspection. pause. I had been told specifically that we would not be up for inspection. pause. I was promised that I would be told before—

EVANGELINE: Who promised you?
EBENEEZER: Of course, we are always happy to accommodate all inspections. turns to EMANUEL. Get your nametag. Are you waiting for it to come to you? Go and get your nametag.

EMANUEL stares blankly at the two tags. Eventually, EVANGELINE makes a gesture to ESTEFAN, who makes a mark on his clipboard.

EVANGELINE: He has failed the first part. The second part of the evaluation is now beginning, and will last for two minutes.

EBENEEZER: He’s failed nothing! He’s simply nervous, because there was no warning and no reason to expect anything. If he were just given a little more time, there’d have no trouble!

EVANGELINE: You are encouraged to help him in the second part.

EBENEEZER: Could we just have a moment alone?

EVANGELINE: You have two minutes. There are many moments possible in two minutes. pause. Of course,

EBENEEZER: No! pause. I . . .

EVANGELINE: If you have also.
EBENEEZER: I haven’t. He hasn’t. (to EMANUEL, confidently) You haven’t, have you?

pause

EVANGELINE: A forfeit can be arranged.

EBENEEZER: It won’t. He doesn’t need it, he hasn’t forgotten anything, he is the picture of confidence. He wants only a moment alone.

EVANGELINE: You are not helping him.

EBENEEZER: He doesn’t need it!

EMANUEL: I—
EBENEEZER: What? Is something the matter? Is there a matter here? Pick up your nametag!
EMANUEL: But—
EBENEEZER: Hut! (to EVANGELINE) I am, of course, happy, to have an opportunity to show you what
EVANGELINE talking over: You are almost out of time

EBENEEZER: a tight ship we run here, without any problems, and no forgetting of
EMANUEL: I–
EBENEEZER: –anything, not even the location of our backup pencil-sharpener, much less the nametags that we keep in perfect order that we may give them to each other.
He gives the “EMANUEL” tag to EMANUEL, and keeps the “EZEKIEL” tag for himself. EVANGELINE completes her gesture; ESTEFAN makes a tick mark.

EVANGELINE: Unfortunately, you have failed.

EBENEEZER: Failed?
EVANGELINE: Your new name is Alfonse, and your subordinate is now named Alfredo. Please submit the appropriate paperwork to the correct office.

EVANGELINE leaves with ESTEFAN in tow

EMANUEL: So this is what failure feels like.

EBENEEZER: A robbery, is what it is. You’ll get better at it.

EMANUEL (honestly): Some comfort, that.

EBENEEZER: I suppose. I was promised, too. Rock-solid and with words exchanged. Goes to show what trust gets you. I was about to come up for an application to an assistantship to an under-secretary, too.

pause
EBENEEZER: Trust them to do the worse, and that’s the only trust you’ll get.
EMANUEL: Does anything change?
EBENEEZER: There’s the paperwork.
EMANUEL: Pity, that.
EBENEEZER: Teach you not to trust, anyway.

pause

EMANUEL: Why do we have a back-up pencil sharpener?

EBENEEZER: In the event that a change is made and official documents must be filled out in pencil, there’s a possibility that the primary pencil sharpener might fail.

EMANUEL: Where’s it stored?
EBENEEZER: In the storage cabinets.
EMANUEL: Hmm.
pause
EMANUEL: I really did want to succeed.

EBENEEZER: Most do.
EMANUEL: Why?
EBENEEZER: Less paperwork.
EMANUEL: Makes sense.
EBENEEZER: Trust.
ESTEFAN enters: all business
ESTEFAN: Failures needing forms in triplicate be advised that offices receiving forms close 2 hours before shifts end. Leave is not granted for failures to turn in forms. Failures must make their own arrangements.

EBENEEZER: Just leave the forms.
ESTEFAN: Failures are further advised that forms must be filled out in black ink and black ink only from pens purchased by failures for personal use. Any ink that was not purchased for failures from failure’s personal funds requires submission of ink exception forms to the division supervisor. Ink exception forms can be filled out with officially-purposed ink and may be obtained from the division supervisor’s secretary following successful personal interviews. Appointments for interviews must be scheduled in person with the district supervisor’s secretary. Have a nice day.
EMANUEL: Do you have a pen?
EBENEEZER: No.
EMANUEL: (at the desk). I think all of these are officially-purposed. When are the forms due?
EBENEEZER: Immediately.
EMANUEL: Do you have a pen in your office?

EBENEEZER: They’re all officially-purposed, too.

EMANUEL: Pity. pause. I do have a small rock stuck in the treads of my shoe. If we pressed hard, the carbon copies would probably be legible.
EBENEEZER: Has this rock been there long?

EMANUEL: A while. It made walking very interesting. I’d rather it stayed in, but . . .
EBENEEZER: Looks at EMANUEL, then at the door, then at EMANUEL, then thinks. Let me see it.
They extricate and examine the rock. ESTEFAN re-appears

ESTEFAN: Failures considering filling out forms with non-standardized pigment are reminded that non-officially-purposed black ink is the only accepted pigment for form filling out. Failures are further cautioned that conspiracy to utilize non-standardized pigment on official forms is a violation requiring corrective mediation with the district supervisor and his or her secretary. (to EBENEEZER) Second-time offenders are additionally correctively mediated by the division supervisor and an explosive collar is implanted in their neck.
EBENEEZER: In the neck?
ESTEFAN: Explosive-collar mediated failures are advised to avoid radio-transmission towers and refrain from microwaving food. Have a nice day.

ESTEFAN leaves
EMANUEL: I suppose it could hurt, then.

EMANUEL: You’ve done this before?

EBENEEZER: It was a pencil, then.

EMANUEL: Wouldn’t that fade?
EBENEEZER: Yes. But that was only the start of my troubles.

EMANUEL: Do you still have it? beat. I’ve always been curious.

EBENEEZER: It doesn’t matter! We need a pen.

EMANUEL: Pity. Is there anyplace to buy one?

EBENEEZER: You have money?
EMANUEL: No, but, one hopes.
EBENEEZER: One gets correctively mediated, is what one does. And then one goes, and works hard, and does one’s very best, and at the end of all that is the same old hole only a little bit deeper.

EMANUEL: I’ll check for any pens I might have forgotten.

he begins checking the same places

EBENEEZER: Good idea.
pause. while EMANUEL is checking.

EMANUEL: I’d really rather be gone and done with it and just be one of those animals that do everything for life, that mate with the same partner and live in the same hole and die with a smile on their lips. I would be very good at it, I think, with an entirely adequate burrow or nest that I’d make better every year, and a fur or shell or something that would get impossibly intricate as I stayed in that burrow, and a mate that I would never conceive of leaving. I think that security, that routine, that knowledge that the world was big and I was small and that when I died men would look at my burrow and my pelt and know that here was something that had lived a long life and done it well. Or someone would hunt me, perhaps, with traps and snares and patient stake-outs, because the simple fact that I had lived had made me beautiful, and the longer I did it the more beautiful I would become. I would try to escape those people, of course, because that would make me a legend, but when I was finally caught I would only lie down and smile a legendary smile and not have to worry. I would like that very much, I really think I would.
EMANUEL looks up
EMANUEL: I found one.

long pause
EBENEEZER: Huh.
blackout.

Posted in

Kendra Lyris, 11/23/2009

Current Occupation: Starving Artist and Published Author
Former Occupation: Paid Intellectual
Contact Information: I am a writer and an artist by default, currently living in Washington, DC. My childhood was spent in what I later learned to be a hick town in Northern California, where I spent years perfecting the drawn hand and generally scribbling in notebooks. After the intellectual delight of Reed College and the artistic pleasures that Portland afforded, I’ve switched coasts in search of gainful employment or fruitful insanity. I can be reached at kendralse@gmail.com.

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The Bethesda Interview

“You could always just get married and have kids.”

These words hang in the air like vultures, circling, waiting for me to die.

These are not uncommon words. They aren’t even, of themselves, nasty or degrading. Some women might go so far as to say that this age of post-feminism has allowed a certain amount of comfort and honesty with the phrase that would certainly allow me to suggest, with some seriousness, that a close friend take this approach to life. We are women. We have choices. We continue to struggle and claim ground within the male-dominated work force, but we are comfortable with our familial, feminine desires. Indeed, men have established a hold on these desires as well. The metrosexual man can run a business while dressed in pink with plucked eyebrows. And he can raise a family at home for a while, too. So, these are not words that offend me of their own right.

However, at this instant, I am not sipping mojitos on a terrace, discussing life with close friends. I am not even, as I had been the night before, chatting with long-distance loved ones and contemplating my myriad alternatives to the formal job market. I am sitting in a floral, wing back chair, legs crossed, leaning just slightly forward — showing dedication and enthusiasm — toward the woman who is giving me a job interview. I am looking at this woman in a way that I hope does not reflect my shock and disgust, and though her mouth is closed while she reaches for a pen across her cluttered desk, my ears still register the phrase she spoke moments before.

The woman sitting at the desk wears black stockings, sensible shoes, and a shirt/skirt combo that is nothing if it is not drab. She seems sorely out of place in this office, with its tall windows, fine furniture, and deep wood floors. I had been allowed a few minutes to take in the room upon my arrival and had noticed the gold and black-framed diplomas from Harvard, Cornell, and George Washington University, the four-foot bronze statue of Lady Justice near the windows and the many boring books on the shelves behind her, drably bound with single-word titles of no interest to me. At first I glanced around the room, hoping that, as I sat myself down in the chair she gestured was mine, she was only picking up the phone so that it would stop ringing, only answering to say I’m terribly sorry, but I must call you back. My darting glances became studying stares as her conversation with her daughter about wedding plans devolved into a battle of narcissistic wills, and I focused on deciphering Harvard’s Latin diploma and deciding if a book entitled simply Psychology could be interesting to me, a psychology major.

Thus, it was not just this woman in her drab clothing that filled my mind while her words circled, but her degrees and her decor as well. We had been discussing my resume and specifically the jobs that I had had since my graduation from college a few years before. Though somewhat annoyed that she simply seemed to want me to recite my resume from memory while she stared at the actual document in her lap, I pleasantly recounted my time just after graduation, when I had worked for my thesis advisor, continuing the research that I had completed my final year, the research that had resulted in an 80 page cognitive psychology paper, the research I had defended orally to a panel of professors in order to graduate. I explained that following that year of grueling study, I had moved out of Portland rain, down to the sun of central California, where I had worked for a few months at an up-scale paper supplies store until I found a more interesting job at a camp. I moved back up to Oregon to live in the woods and teach troops of sixth-graders about natural science and to wrangle their high-school-student counselors. After ten weeks of this out of the classroom public school programming, I moved back into Portland and found a job at a local tutoring company where I worked first as an assistant to the director and then as a tutor myself. I also worked part time for a local acupuncturist, doing her insurance billing. After two years, it was time for a change, which is why I find myself in Maryland, just West of DC, interviewing for a job in medical billing, for which I am neither under, nor over-qualified.

“And then tell me, what is AppleTree?” the woman asks. She frowns slightly, but this is not different from the way she has looked for the last fifteen minutes, so I ignore the look and say, “AppleTree is an early learning institute that focuses on giving preschool and kindergarten age children the specialized tools they need to be completely prepared for first grade, with the hope that they will be more able to succeed throughout their schooling if they are well prepared early on. In addition to being a Charter Preschool in DC, they also partner with a number of other DC schools to provide a battery of early math and literacy testing both at the beginning and then at the end of the school year.” I speak somewhat quickly. I’ve explained this before and the psychological bent of the testing allows me to feel comfortable with words like battery.

“And why did you stop working with them?”

“Oh, it was a contract position. I worked for them doing the battery of tests at the beginning of the year and, because they wanted a good baseline measure, they made sure everyone was done in about a month.”

She seemed confused as to why the whole thing might simply end like that. I couldn’t tell if she was bewildered or skeptical of my truthfulness, but I did my best to explain, my best to remain engaged and polite.

“Well,” she said, looking into her lap at my resume, now marked with notes, “it looks like your passion is children. Why aren’t you doing that?”

Maybe I should go back. Maybe this needs more set-up. Here: It’s fall in Maryland, a beautiful, calm time where the colors change at a snail’s pace until the world is on fire. I know, because I can see the change from my apartment window, the street below me lined with trees at different stages of change, while I sit inside writing and rewriting cover letters, perfecting resumes, and waiting for calls. My boyfriend and I moved in August so that he could start Law School and I could be the Provider. It’s a new role for me, having been known to spend months painting for a coffee-house show, writing unfinished novels, and baking layer cakes for no occasion at all. But I find the prospect delightfully new. And our relationship is not one of hyper-sexualized roles. I don’t need to be a housewife. I plan to go back to school. We just realize that we can’t afford to be in school at the same time, and I chose where to live last time. It’s his turn.

It is in this cool, and red-leafed world that I wake up one morning and find an email asking if I am willing to meet for an interview this afternoon. A same day interview, I think. Somewhat odd, but I’m not turning anything down! I periodically find time to contemplate a career in pole dancing, and prolonged joblessness has a tendency to produce that effect, so of course I am excited by an interview, no matter the advance notice. That afternoon, I am in my car listening to 90’s rock from my iPod, singing loudly to cool the nerves and driving, strangely, into a residential neighborhood. I am early, as I try to be for interviews, and drive my car slowly through the winding streets, gawking at mansion homes next to mansions big enough that their servants’ quarters are a moderately sized home by themselves. It is the week after Halloween and I’m thinking how many kids have their parents drive them into this neighborhood every year hoping for the better candy from the rich people. They must imagine, as I do, that none of these homes would offer a Tootsie Roll from their Halloween bowl, but would give king-sized Reece’s and Mounds, or fancy European candy, flown in especially for this occasion. These people are clearly rich in a way that cannot compete with the Santa Barbara hills or the LA elite. East Coast money feels different.

I pull up to 13017 and walk toward the front door. I ring the doorbell and wait for an answer. I contemplate reaching for my phone and attempting to call one of the numbers that was given me in the email that contained this address, but I do not. I continue to wait, to reconsider, and a small dog appears, yapping at the long window beside the door, leading me to decide against pressing the doorbell a second time. A woman appears, wearing black stockings, a knee-length black skirt and a brown top. She opens the door and I smile, reach out my hand, and say, “Hello, Vera? I’m Kendra; I’m here for an interview.” Vera does not smile, though she does take my hand briefly and then lead me into her bright study, showing me to a chair as her phone rings.

So, in a way, perhaps I should not have been shocked when this woman attempted to suggest she had a more complete knowledge of my desires than I did. When she asked me why I wasn’t in school also, I shouldn’t have been surprised to have to tell this woman that money was a factor. And I should have seen it coming when this woman began talking about the office suite in her basement for the medical billing practice she commanded, the dozen or so corporate properties she held (and for which she needed a manager) and the many different Limited Liability Corporations of which she was the head and who’s finances must be kept in order by someone.

Yet, I was. I was shocked that this woman could be so rude, could last a full half-hour of an interview with a pleasant young woman without once smiling, could condescend to tell me I did not know what job I wanted to interview for, and yet could continue to offer me the job. I was aghast when she pried to learn that I was supporting both myself and my boyfriend, and appalled when she proceeded to suggest that due to my qualifications, she would, if she hired me, do so at the low end of her range at an hourly rate half of what I had made in Portland where the cost of living is far less.

In my mind, I explained to her, in the most colorful language possible, that her rudeness would not be borne. I stood and explained in brilliant Austen fashion that her lovely home and obvious financial standing did not make up for her very poor breeding and commanded no respect from this quarter. I towered above her in my black kitten-heel boots and calmly pointed out that she would never see first hand what an asset I am to a business because nothing that she could possibly say would convince me that she was not the vilest, most self-centered woman of my acquaintance.

Then, I stood up from my seat, smiled, offered my hand again, and thanked her politely for the interview.

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Susie DeFord, 11/16/2009

Current Occupation: Dogwalking CEO
Former Occupation: You name it, I’ve probably done it.
Contact Information: http://www.susiedeford.com/

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photo by Dennis Riley

Berserk Balloon Ballet

For Moe

Big Moe won’t give me a break. Boxer bulldozer strut,

pant, and rush ready for the fight. Rearing up,

anxious screech and cry at the sight of his own kind.

Excited err—how quick crush craze can fashion

fury. Berserk ballon ballet jete, the rise and fall of ocean

waves to my metronome click calm of counterfeit

courage correction. I have to choke him off, swinging

and spinning in his silver noose. We struggle

until his tongue hangs low to the ground, until his breath

quickens, slowing him down. Only in exhaustion

can we begin again. As if in a drown-swim, I must first

render him helpless before I can save him.

I can’t push pull him into the pack before he’s ready.

I try my luck with a little cotton ball Cassidy,

she’s scared but trusts me. He tries to bat at her head,

squash her down with his big paw pound.

But I make him sit, turn menace to manners for the first

time. Curious head turned he watches her walk

and smitten smacks into the trunk of a tree. I chuckle

and walk on, he prances proud—company.

How like him you are my dear, all teeth and talk,

all hard-shell hiding soft sun yellow yolk.

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Barista, 11/6/2009

Ah, Portland. City of roses, evergreen trees, bike lanes. It’s also the land of the coffee bean. From the city’s first real espresso machine (installed at La Panier in the early 1980s), the Almighty Bean has surged and blossomed into an unstoppable culture. And Starbucks will not do. Portland coffee aficionados prefer locally roasted, organic, fair-trade beans. Stumptown, of course, leads the pack for locals, but there are a few other independent roasters that add texture to the landscape once dominated by Starbucks.

It’s the barista that rules in Portland, the daytime bartender of caffeine. Baristas, depending on their expertise and the cafe in which they pull shots, can make over $20 an hour (mostly in tips). They compete in international championships. They found their own dynasties: the best example of this is Portland barista Billy Wilson, who owns both the Albina Press and “coffee brewpub concept” Barista. Furthermore, Portland seems to specialize in coffee-slingers. Since the Stumptown empire has recently expanded to New York City, Stumptown-trained baristas get preferential hiring, and are considered masters of their craft.

So how to get into this cool kids’ club? The short answer: you can’t.

With a surfeit of starving artists, overeducated and unemployed, barista positions go quickly. And they aren’t handed out to whoever is available—the selection process is rigorous, and often based on more than talent. Open calls for barista positions are rare, and usually have such high turnout that the applicant pool spills out into the street. More often, people are hired from an existing network of smartly dressed, good-looking, highly experienced people under 35.

And if you’ve pulled shots for Starbucks don’t bother applying. Top-notch cafes look for independent, specialized training, which is why Stumptown graduates are in such high demand. Other ways to get your name in the hat are less glamorous. You could wash dishes in the cafe, bus tables, or otherwise ingratiate yourself to the manager. There is anecdotal evidence that hooking up with the manager (or owner, or both) slightly improves one’s chances of being hired—but this publication doesn’t recommend trying it. (CRF)

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